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Bass wants Courage probe

Bass yesterday made a strong call for a Monopolies and Mergers Commission investigation into last week's pounds 435m takeover of Courage by Scottish & Newcastle Breweries.

The Office of Fair Trading is expected to deliver its recommendation next month to Michael Heseltine, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, who will decide whether a monopolies probe will take place.

Sir Ian Prosser, chairman of Bass, said the push for an investigation was not sour grapes that the deal would result in S&N displacing his company as the leading force in brewing, but because of a greater need for the Government to clarify competition policy.

He is adamant that the Courage deal will give S&N a 31 per cent share of the UK beer market, which compares with Bass's 23 per cent. S&N, however, claims its share will be 25 per cent - right on the monopoly benchmark.

"We believe the S&N deal should be referred because we need to know what the rules are; that is, whether someone should be able to have a 31 per cent market share," said Sir Ian.

Investment Column, page 41